Week One: 2017 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Training

Photo Credit: Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Race
Photo Credit: Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Race

Fundraising Updates: As part of my Cherry Blossom 10-Miler training, I will be raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network. My goal is $350, but I would love to surpass that. Every week, I will post updates as part of my training with a link to my donation page. Our social media team will also be endeavoring to raise funds, too, so I urge you to consider donating to help them reach their goals this week! Thanks in advance for your kindness and generosity in helping to make miracles happen for children.

Back in October, I announced that I had been selected to represent the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Miler for the 2017 race as a social media ambassador. I am totally thrilled to do so, because I love this race.

Without question, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is the unofficial start of spring in our nation’s capital. No matter what the weather is doing, no matter whether the blossoms arrive on March 21 or after, cherry blossom season means that spring has arrived and everyone in D.C. is shaking off their layers and coming out from under their Netflix queues and winter hibernation comas. Even if you’re one of the many locals who refuses to go near the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season, you’re likely already finding out which bars have opened their patios for early  happy hour al fresco season and we ladies are taking any available excuse to wear a sundress.

Also, back in 1998, my high school marching band participated in the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, so my ties to the National Cherry Blossom Festival go way back. I remember that every single time I am out running along the parade route on Constitution Avenue, so it’s special to me to represent this race nearly 20 years after I first set foot in D.C.

My high school marching band, Bellevue East High School, marching in the 1998 National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. I'm somewhere in the flute section, pictured here.
My high school marching band, Bellevue East High School, marching in the 1998 National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. I’m somewhere in the flute section, pictured here.

As part of the social media team’s duties, I am also taking part in the Potomac River Running (PRR) Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Training Group! Here’s a secret: I have never actually participated in a coached running group before. Yes, it’s true: I am purely self-trained and coached in my running adventures. It’s something I am very proud of, but I do recognize that I miss out on a lot of benefits to being part of a training group. One of these benefits: speed work. Frankly, I don’t do speed work on the track because I always get injured. Even when I start out with a basic few 400-yard sprints, I always get an injury. So, I just don’t do it. The most I can handle with speed work is adding in a mile at race pace on a medium distance or long run or a shorter distance pace run. That has been enough to get me some decent times in the marathon and some super close hits to my half-marathon PR, but I always feel like running sprints is the key to finally getting the times I know I am capable of running. So, I am thrilled to be a part of this group now because I really hope that I can learn a lot from trying speed work and start building a good base of speed to up my 2017 fall marathon training.

Eye on the prize...
Eye on the prize…

Base Building

Already, 2017 is an unusual year for me in my running world because I don’t have a spring half-marathon to train for right now. That means I have been resting a lot. I forced myself into two weeks off after the New York City Marathon in November, which I didn’t really feel like I needed to do, but I did anyway. I paced a couple of half-marathons in December, the last of which in Islamorada, Florida made me realize that I had either come back to distance with too much rest or I really did need a little more time off. So, out of an abundance of caution and experience with injury, I essentially took the rest of December off and only ran about 10-15 miles a week for the rest of the year.

Once January hit, I felt ready to go and I started working towards building a strong base to keep injury from derailing my goals. PRR’s training program doesn’t actually begin until about the third week of January, so I had some time to start working my mileage back up a little. The mileage aspect doesn’t concern me, because I have run 10 miles straight more times than I can count, but having a time goal to run 10 miles means my focus is different. So, since I am not running for distance this time around, I ran between 10 and 20 miles per week for January and tried to keep the focus on strength. Going into speed work training, I am hopeful I did enough to prepare my muscles for this program. But I don’t intend to stop now that I am back in a training program.

Goals

I have three time goals in mind for the 2017 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler:

  • First goal: a 1:25 finish time, or an 8:30 pace.
  • Second goal: 1:27:30 or an 8:45 average pace.
  • Third goal: 1:30, or a 9:00 average pace.

My 10-miler personal record was set in 2015 at the Baltimore 10-Miler is 1:34:27, an average 9:26 pace.

On paper, it seems like beating my PR by almost 10 minutes is biting off more than I can chew. I realize that, and I agree that it’s a big goal. But there’s a reason why I feel like I can handle it. The blessing of having an injury is being able to learn strength-training moves and stretches that are tailored for you, so in the 6 months of physical therapy I got to unwind some clenched hip, glute, and lower back muscles, I was able to take my paces down from in the high 10:00’s to earning a 10K PR of 54:42, or an average 8:49 pace. It’s been almost three months since I saw a physical therapist and, while I still do my stretches and exercises, I have been able to run race pace with relative ease while on a recent 8-miler and 5-miler. It still felt very challenging to eek out those paces. I definitely could not have sustained it if my runs were any longer. But those paces are there. They came at the end of those runs, not in the beginning or middle. So, I feel like something is about to be unlocked and I am ready to go for it.

Week One Training

Easy 4 to start the week.
Easy 4 to start the week.

My total mileage for this week was around 12 miles, which is low for me, and it was for a variety of reasons. The training program itself started on Monday, but I didn’t get my first run of the week in until Wednesday mostly due to the Nor’Easter that blew through on Monday and a work commitment that kept me off the track on Tuesday night. Wednesday, I ran an easy-paced 4 miles around Arlington even though I had the option of meeting up with the track group at Wilson High School in D.C., which I found out later. If I could give one bit of critical advice to PRR is to release the training program a little bit sooner than literally the weekend beforehand. I am a planner, and I like to plan my week in advance to be able to handle things that come up. I’m not usually very spontaneous when it comes to running and training. And, even though I am not new to running, seeing the level of speed work required for the Advanced program made my head swim a little bit. I definitely would have loved some clarification from the coaches first.

I decided that I would run the Advanced version of the program even though I am new to speed work. The reason is because I want to train my body for both distance and speed. However, there are Intermediate and Beginning programs that are tailored to anyone’s level of experience and preference.

My second run was on Saturday after a vigorous strength-training session on Thursday left my glutes and legs feeling a little too cooked for a Friday run. Typically, when this happens, I like to take rest so my muscles can rebuild faster ahead of a weekend long distance run, but I also make sure I walk and stretch when I can to promote active recovery. On Saturday, I took an easy paced 3-miler, which I intended to be 4 miles, but I did not eat enough prior to the run so I felt nauseous and dizzy the whole time. Even us veteran runners can overestimate ourselves and make stupid mistakes like that.

Saturday run
Saturday run

My third, final, and longest run of the week was with the D.C. long run group on Sunday morning. I left my apartment in Rosslyn around 8:30, and the morning was freezing. I’ll tell you now: that is still always the hardest part about winter running, the getting out the door when that first blast of cold air cuts through your warm body. I met the rest of the group at about a quarter to 9AM, signed in, and waited shivering with everyone before getting started. The coaches introduced themselves, set out a plan for the beginner plan runners to run about 3 miles, the intermediate plan runners to run between 4 and 5, and the advanced plan runners to run between 5 and 8 miles. Usually when I think of a weekend long run distance, I immediately think of anything over 6 miles. However, given that my 3-miler the day before went pretty terribly and I had missed a couple of runs for the week, I decided 5 miles was a reasonable place to start.

With any long run, you don’t want to go at race pace because you will quickly burn out and get tired. The intent with any distance training program is to tire yourself out just to the point where you can still keep going. You want to get used to running on legs that are tired, but you should not push yourself so hard that it feels impossible. The exhaustion can be beneficial as you are training yourself to sustain the fatigue in a long distance, but the key to that is building endurance and training the muscles that are designed to keep you going far and not the muscles that are better built for short distances and bursts of speed. You want them to work together. That said, long runs should be about 60-90 seconds slower than race pace so you can focus on endurance. With my goal race pace of 8:30, I decided to start out at a casual 10:00 pace and build up to a 9:30.

We started out running on the Capital Crescent Trail, some of us in clumps and others alone. I ran alone for the most part, which I actually sort of preferred since I felt like I needed to concentrate on this run. While I definitely am excited for social interaction, I wasn’t feeling confident about how this run would go, so I wanted to be introspective. My first split was around 10:08, a good place to start, and it felt comfortable. My second mile split was a 9:37, which I thought was a little too fast but it still felt easy enough so I decided this is as far as I would go since I was in my 60-second threshold. My third mile, run in 9:27, was slightly faster than my threshold, but I also know the Capital Crescent Trail well enough to know that there is a slight decline on the way back to Georgetown. However, in my fourth mile, I started to feel the speed creeping in and it felt surprisingly easy. I finished my fourth mile in 8:58– definitely just past my long-run floor threshold of 30 seconds over race pace, but I thought it would be fine since I didn’t get to the track this week. My fifth mile, however, was blazing fast and it felt awesome. I finished the split in 8:35, obviously just 5 seconds shy of the average pace I would need to run to meet my time goal. I didn’t plan for that, but I felt like it would be fine in a week that I didn’t get in my speed work.

My first official long run of CUCB training!
My first official long run of CUCB training!

Typically, that’s the kind of speed test you may want to try during a weekly mid-distance run to make sure you are on track to meet your goals. However, spacing it appropriately in between speed work is a best practice to keep from over-training.

Goals for Next Week

Now that I have met some fellow runners in the group and have seen the plan, I feel better prepared to jump right in this week and make it to the Tuesday track meets and obviously the long run on Sunday. I’ve also structured my week with a little more core, glute, and hip strengthening work just to make sure that my muscles continue to be prepared to handle speed training. Friday will be my full rest day ahead of a longer run on Sunday.

Shout-out to our official race gear sponsor, Under Armour, for outfitting myself and the ambassador team with awesome gear! Consider this my flat runner for the April 2 race!

I’m looking forward to this training program and hopefully getting to know some more fellow runners in the weeks ahead. Good luck this week with training, fellow CUCB-ers!

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3 thoughts on “Week One: 2017 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Training

  1. I love that your marching band was in the parade! It was great to see you on Sunday and great training run!
    We’ve got similar goals this week – strength training and track workout. Good luck!

  2. It’s exciting that you are training with a group for the first time and I have heard wonderful things about the Potomac River training groups. Best wishes for a healthy training cycle- I look forward to following along.

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